Eclipse Poem

Today the sun is shining, and the light is beginning to fade. The children at the school are excited – I think they are expecting anything from werewolves to a zombie apocalypse! But sixteen years ago I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Pentire 11th August 1999

Before the eclipse, stalls selling tinfoil glasses.
After it, ice-cream and t-shirts,
and in between, the shifting sky, and shouting –
Go on! Go on! as if the clouds could hear us.
A man’s voice behind us, thick with drink,
Cajoles it in a buttery lover’s croon –
Let’s all think of flowers, and good things!

A silver fire swam in a sea of cloud.
The black moon bit a chunk of sun.
Gulls screamed, dogs barked,
the sea faded, the headland wore a shroud,
maroons wailed in the vampire light,
and we waited for it to be cold.

The clouds thinned and we saw
the diamond ring, corona, Baily’s beads.
Light sprayed out from behind the black circle –
the moon’s lid on a jar too full.
When the sun pushed it aside,
the headland breathed in colour
breathed out cheering and souvenirs.

Everyone told a story of that day,
that summer, ten years or more ago,
and the world has grown warmer, not wiser.
In the new eclipse we hide, expecting
apocalyptic horsemen, not good things.
I have never since heard anyone
talk like a lover to the sun.

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